D.O.P. Woman of the Year:
Over the past 10 years, Philo4Thought Hellenic Professional Mentoring Initiative has had the honor to collaborate with many prominent Hellenic organizations at the local, regional, national and global levels. In 2019, the New York City's Daughters of Penelope (DOP) Evryklea Chapter hosted an inaugural "Woman of the Year" Award Ceremony and luncheon at Kellari Taverna, New York on March 9th in recognition of "Women's Independence Day". We, of course, covered the story since the honoree, Mrs. Carol Contos, has served and inspired thousands of individuals in need as an educator, mentor and philanthropist.
Mrs. Contos, a beloved philanthropist, community advocate and educator of over 30 years, for her outstanding contributions to the community and, on a more personal level, for the way in which she has taken the time and effort to touch the hearts and lives of so many. Celebrated for that combination of modest dignity and strength as well as her charismatic charm, Mrs. Contos is a true embodiment of what the DOP and AHEPA represent. She has spent a lifetime promoting the deepest values of our culture and faith, truly embodying the concept Philotimo (φιλότιμο) in her lasting and positive impact in the lives of so many. We are proud to share her story with you today. As such, she is an exemplary role model for today's professional woman and for all young ladies of the generation ahead, which is why the DOP named her their 2019 Woman of the Year and Philo4Thought, in collaboration with the New York State Assembly, chose her as our 2020 Lifetime Honoree.
In speaking with Mrs. Contos when she was honored as the DOP Woman of the Year (2019), she explains that her own philanthropic contributions started with her participation on an annual cancer fundraising campaign but that most of her philanthropic work has been church-related. She served as Vice President of the National Philoptochos Society under Archbishop Iakovos and was President of the local chapter at the Archdiocesan Cathedral of the Holy Trinity for several years in addition to being a member of the Cathedral Church Board for many years. Professionally, Mrs. Contos taught for over thirty years and was one of the rare instructors for outreach programs dedicated to teaching pregnant women and young parents who were unable to complete traditional high school. She also taught girls in prison who were aiming for a GED equivalency to turn a new leaf and become active and productive members of society. “And that’s it.” She says in the simple and open way that her many family and friends so love and respect.
When congratulated for instilling this strong philanthropic community spirit in her family, Mrs. Contos candidly shares, “It all began with my parents, really, who were both educators and promoted the Greek language and culture really more than anyone I know in the U.S. They were part of that first of the group of educators of the Greek American Institute who salvaged the school back in 1938 during the depression when it was going to be closed due to lack of funding to pay the space and the teachers. My father took it over and made it into one of the most prestigious day schools in the country.”
Mrs. Contos was presented with a lovely Woman of the Year plaque by the DOP in March 2019 and will be awarded an official proclamation by the New York State Assembly on behalf of Philo4Thought in May 2020.
In her address at the 2019 reception, Mrs. Contos shared, "I've always lived by three simple rules: kindness, respect, and 'do unto others'...." This direct, philanthropic mindset is exactly what leads us to celebrate the inspirational example she sets for her family and the many others who know of her remarkable character and accomplishments and have benefited from her selfless community outreach.
Fellow educator and Evryklea Treasurer, Jeannie Kouros, shared stories about Mrs. Contos’ long-standing contributions to the Philoptochos Society as well as her tireless efforts to educate pregnant teens, imprisoned youth and the many others who flourished through the acts of kindness and understanding that have become her trademark. We asked Ms. Kouros to share a few words about her long-standing friendship with the honoree: “I’ve known Carol for over 35 years, from the time of the Fellowship. Our doors were right next to each other. In my humble opinion, Carol was a lady with a lot of class, very low key, and always worked hard from one project to the other. She always spoke in a very soft, friendly manner and is well respected by all those who know her. She never really thought she ‘did anything’ because she was always just doing the right thing and always got along with everyone. To me, an educator is someone who is not afraid of a challenge but teaches to make a difference in the lives of others. That’s what Carol did, especially with the students from prison. Nobody wanted to take that position and Carol just stepped up and said, ‘I will do it’ and she did. She taught them trust, and that was easy for her because she was simply being herself. I’ve always admired her and I am glad we gave her this award.”
As Delphi President Lou Katsos states in an exclusive commentary following the event, “Carol is one of the treasures of the Hellenic American community. She is an educator from whom many can learn, and coming from a family of educators. She is a silent, hard working philanthropist who has devoted her life to many worthy endeavors. In selecting Carol as their first recipient for this award, the historical Daughters of Penelope Evryklea Chapter proved the wisdom and devotion of their namesake, Evryklea, the woman in the Odyssey of Homer who raised both Odysseus and his son Telemachus.”
Mrs. Contos' brother, Professor James DeMetro, her daughter, Nicole Contos Liakeas, and her son-in-law, Dr. George Liakeas, each presented moving anecdotes highlighting her energetic ability to juggle various responsibilities at once. While Mrs. Contos is known for prioritizing the needs of her family, she is also known for kind dedication to finding a way to help those around her.
In chatting with several of the assembled attendees, many of whom are well acquainted with Mrs. Contos as a sister in the Philoptochos Society at Holy Trinity Cathedral, the consensus is that her legacy shines brightly not only through her work for others, but in the fine family she has raised with care and attention, which each of them now “pays forward” through their charitable contributions and efforts to help others.
CREDIT & RECOGNITION: Many thanks and warm congratulations to Mrs. Carol Contos for her lifetime of community outreach. Special thanks to those who contributed exclusive statements for the preparation of this feature article.
Congratulations to all those who worked diligently to prepare and speak at the Award Ceremony:
Evryklea Chapter Representatives:
President, Effie Streida; Treasurer, Jeannie Kouros; Event M.C., Anna Sakellaropoulou.
Esteemed Guest Speakers:
Consul General of Cyprus, Alexis Phedonos-Vadet;
Daughters of Penelope Grand President, Demi Thomas; Grand Treasurer, Georgette Boulegeris;
AHEPA Delphi Chapter President, Lou Kastos; VP of Strategic Steering, Ted Klingos;
Federation of the Hellenic Societies President, Cleanthis Meimaroglou;
Hellenic Film Society Director, Prof. James Demetro.
ADDITIONAL INFORMATION: Mrs. Contos' daughter, Mrs. Nicole Contos-Liakeas, is scheduled to be honored at Philo4Thought's 10-Year Anniversary Symposium and to share the many ways in which Women in STEM professions work to make a difference. We invite you to read her biographical summary and advice to young professionals!